By Jerry Presley
As your good friend Mort Marks would write, “Bob, Bob, Bob…”
Recently you wrote an opinion supporting a change in the Greenwood Village Comprehensive Plan that would dramatically alter the city’s vision. The issue is about the type of development in the I-25 and Orchard Road area and you support the change in the vision and I oppose it. We disagree.
The current vision is that this area should be an employment center, used primarily by commercial office, lodging and related business use. This area is the foundation of our tax base which allows the city to provide an outstanding level of service to the people who live and work here. The Comprehensive Plan is open and clear that it discourages apartment development in this area.
The proposed change would be a 180 degree reversal. It is a seismic change. This vision would encourage and promote high density residential development and the conflict of these visions is the heart of a contentious and polarizing debate.
On July 19, just a few months ago, you and I sat next to each other and listened to a packed house of residents express their strong opposition to the proposed change. In public testimony before the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission, citizen after citizen made passionate pleas to reject the proposed revision. A friend of mine described the audience as an angry crowd with pitchforks but that was a hyperbole. No one carried a pitchfork, but they certainly were angry.
After hearing the public testimony, P&Z voted 8-0 to recommend to the council that it reject the change to the vision and shortly thereafter the City Council voted 8-0 to put the issue on “indefinite hold”. It appeared that the city listened to its citizens and would continue to discourage high density apartments.
Now, just a few months later, P&Z is reconsidering its position and it appears that the Commission is about to flip flop on its vote. It is considering the same plan as before with some inconsequential wordsmith edits that have nothing to do with the core issue.
So for a second time, on Sept. 20, hundreds of citizens spent an additional number of countless hours writing another flood of letters and testifying again about their views. The fact is that the view of government by many people has morphed from trust to distrust and this bothers me more than the possibility of a bunch of apartments. Something bigger is at stake here. We need to restore trust in government.
The Planning & Zoning Commission is now scheduled to take a second vote on the issue at its Oct. 18 meeting. The Commission can vote to 1) recommend approval of the plan, 2) recommend a second rejection of the plan, or 3) table the plan and not make a recommendation.
Regardless of the P&Z vote, the city is in a no-win situation. There will be hundreds of citizens who will be disappointed if P&Z votes to approve or reject the plan because there are many with strongly held views on both sides. Our house is divided. The City Council is divided.
Bob, I am asking you, and I am asking the Planning & Zoning Commission, to join me in offering a better alternative. I want all of us to recommend that the city council refer this controversial issue to a vote of the people in a referendum scheduled for the May 2017 vote cycle. Let the people decide. Regardless of the outcome, this will restore faith in government and that is the bigger picture.
Representative government is the best option in almost all cases because it is far more efficient. However, efficiency should not be the goal in this case. Re-establishing trust should be the goal. After the last vote is counted, no one can point a finger at government and legitimately cry foul. A vote of the people is less efficient but it supports the greater principle of democracy. Let the people vote.
Jerry Presley is a former Greenwood Village City Councilmember.
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